At 1 a.m., sipping overpriced coffee in the Village, I am looking over the articles that are going in this issue of The Wave.
The article that has attracted my attention was supposed to run two weeks ago. Since I was unable to translate the file from my email to the computer, it never made it in.
I decide to find out what the big deal is about, since I finally have a hard copy of it. It’s the article about the St. Camillus Special Olympics athletes attending a basketball game at Hofstra University.
This is when I’m reminded of a sports lesson that took me years to learn. To be quite honest, I think I will continue to be taught this lesson over and over again.
Sports teaches a lot. That’s the lesson. Mock not the apparent simplicity of the statement. The most rudimentary of designs can hold the deepest strength.
Looking back on my very short decade and a half experience with sports I can say that I really learned a lot through my experiences.
I learned of the importance of pride. Now, I’m not talking about some sort of chest thumping, prima donna pride. I’m talking about pride in yourself and in your labor. I needed the pride in myself to defend a guy who obviously was coached and trained in basketball. I learned pride in my labor when I saw that the 12 hours me, my brother and our two friends Ben and Flo, spent at the park showed results. My jump shot got a little better and I learned to value the results my hard work yielded.
I also had to learn respect hand in hand with the aforementioned pride. Sure, I had pride in my game, but if I didn’t have respect for my brother’s perimeter game, he would torch me. That’s just one small part of respect.
I would play pick-up games with guys I thought were real jackasses. As the teams got mixed and they played on my team, I came to know that they were just extremely competitive. I rediscovered respect, and developed friendships, with every game that I played.
I learned discipline. I learned work discipline in the way I applied myself to shooting around in a church basement alone for hours just so I could get more comfortable with the feel of basketball. When I was playing baseball I would spend hours in the mirror working out, step by step, my entire pitching motion. I would throw a baseball until I was literally so tired that I couldn’t pick up a pen with my right hand. Then I saw results. Discipline works.
All these lessons that sports taught me, I was able to use in the rest of my life.
Now, as a CUNY activist, my small portion of pride, mixed in with (I hope) humility, allows me to fearlessly state my views. I’m not afraid of having my ideas challenged and I think I actually encourage the challenge.
The earned respect principles that I learned from others, allows me to respectfully engage fellow writers and students and allows me revere those that are wiser and more experienced than me. In effect, respect allows me to learn even more.
Finally, there’s the discipline that I learned from the hours upon hours of basketball and baseball practice. Discipline has gotten me through much personal, professional and academic adversity my entire life.
Although it probably doesn’t sound like it, I’m not trying to praise myself. Rather, I’m praising the many lessons that I learned on the court or on the field.
These lessons, you’ll see if you look around, are lessons that the youth of today often don’t get the opportunity to learn. Even those that are fortunate enough to be instructed in these lessons, won’t truly learn them until they experience them for themselves.
Sports is not a parent. Sports will never be the solution to all lives problems. But still, what a great way to get kids off on the right foot.